How To Survive Deleting Characters #AmWriting #WritingCommunity


Writing the death of a much-loved character can be demanding and can leave you emotionally wiped out.

Did you know that there is another literary situation which can be just as challenging and one which can cast a nasty gloom over your writing life – deleting a character from your story.

I am not talking about deleting a random minor character; a fictional person who you created one day after too much coffee and inserted into the middle of your novel, just to beef it out (technical literary term) and then deleted them the following day after realising your stupidity. *Sigh*

No. I am talking about those major changes to a draft which result in you deciding to get rid of a key character.

I guarantee this fictional person will have been with you since the start of your story and someone who you have history with. You and this character will have been through some stuff; your rocky first draft, that dreadful second draft which no one liked, your third draft where you felt all hope was lost and the fourth draft which resulted in you wondering why the hell you had ever taken up writing.

You and this character will have shared story in-jokes. They will have been there for you during the bad times. You know them inside out and they are like a good friend.

The awful thing is that you know a change like this needs to happen.

Dare you say it?

Go on say it!

This character was a bit dull and your story will be better without them! 

This situation WILL play havoc with your emotions. You have to ERASE this fictional character from your story and then act like they NEVER existed!

You don’t know about literary heart-break until you have experienced severing all ties with a fictional character you have an emotional connection with.  

I have just deleted my main character’s love interest. He’d done six drafts with me and we got on like a house on fire. But I knew he wasn’t what my story needed. So I had to let him go (press delete).

So, if you are an emotional writer like me, you will find deleting an existing character tough going.

Here are some useful tips on how to survive this dark literary time:

  1. Once you have made the decision to delete them from memory don’t spend hours deliberating. If your gut is saying ‘delete them!’ – do it!
  2. Save a copy of your draft with them playing a part in your story. You may need this when you wake in the middle of the night, drenched in sweat, clutching your loved one and whispering “I shouldn’t have deleted [enter character name of choice]”.
  3. Perform your delete swiftly and humanely. They won’t feel a thing! Ask your ‘find’ button for some much-needed support with this.
  4. Prepare yourself in advance for a tough clean up operation post deletion. This will involve, what we in the trade like to call, some quick and dirty editing. Adjusting those scenes involving another character having a heated conversation with your now deleted character or where a character was in the middle of a romantic embrace with the one you have just cruelly deleted. The latter scenes are the hardest to mop up in this situation.
  5. Things will feel a bit different for a while after the deletion. You might feel a bit raw / needy for a few days. For noting: if your loved one is unsympathetic with you after a character death, don’t expect ANYTHING from them post a character deletion. The best you will get is an eye roll! You are on your own with this one.
  6. Tell yourself that your deleted character’s time will come again. Don’t dwell on the fact that you erased them from this story because they were dull / weak / surplus to requirements or replaced by a better looking character. Reassure yourself with a comforting phrase like square peg in a round hole!
  7. Prepare to hear your deleted character’s name in real life conversations after the deletion. Bite your bottom lip, steady yourself and go make yourself a nice sugary cup of tea.
  8. Talk your feelings through with a sympathetic writer friend.

I am here for you, if you need to talk to a fellow emotional writer.

Take it easy readers!

Have a great day!


Posted by

Still waiting for the Sleepless in Seattle film sequel. Romcom Author. Book Blogger. Mum of teens. Owned by a golden Labrador.

20 thoughts on “How To Survive Deleting Characters #AmWriting #WritingCommunity

  1. Oh that’s a tough one!!!! Glad you came through the other side, Lucy… And I’m now intrigued as to what the change will create in your story!

  2. I feel bad enough about killing characters off anyway. To ease my conscience, I’ve tried sending them away and deleting them. Trouble is, they sneak back into my mind and pester me for justification. I’m currently writing a spin-off featuring one of them, which has (so far) kept him quiet and out of my head.

  3. I’ve never deleted a character, but have killed some. That makes me feel bad, but at least they had a life before their untimely death. Deleting one must be a bit like denying them any life at all.

  4. These characters get so real, don’t they? It’s heartbreaking when we have to say goodbye. It doesn’t have to be goodbye, though – we can always use them somewhere else, even if it’s just their essence in a different guise. A while ago I had to ditch a whole BOOK full of characters. Now some of them are surfacing again, in my children’s books – as children.

  5. Writing crime I’ve killed off plenty of characters – grin. But DELETING them? Not so far and I imagine the mechanics might be a little more complicated than simply relying on the ‘find’ option. There are those sneaky little scenes where they haven’t been explicitly named – characters X & Y are on a riverbank when a child falls in and Y jumps in and saves them. You then decide to delete Y only to have X reminisce when teaching their own child to swim about the incident with their COUSIN (Y) – bit of a lame example but hope you get my drift.

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